Special thanks to Matthew Heiss, President of the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey, for putting this article together for us!
In 1992, the Swift Tuttle comet passed through our solar system. Every July/August, our planet crosses the orbital path of this comet, speeding through debris left over from that visit in '92. This year is setting up to be one of the best years for seeing the Perseids Meteor Shower. With a projected rate of 50 - 150 per hour, this should be a great show to watch.
The shower can be seen as early as July 17th until August 24th, with the peak night being around the 12th of August. You will see the most during the peak, but can still catch some before and after too.
If you are looking to get the most out of the shower, we advise you to get to a dark sky location. You want to be far away from light pollution, with a large open area to see the sky. The northwestern corner of New Jersey, the Pine Barrens, or even at the Jersey Shore are great places to see it. You want to look northeast after 10pm. That's when the constellation Perseus will be coming up over the horizon. That will be the main area to look at.
There is another important factor to also consider. Although our moon is beautiful to look at, it acts like a giant light bulb in the sky and can actually cause you to see less of the shower due to it adding light pollution. I recommend looking at a moon rise chart to find the best time that the moon will be either not out, or as small as possible.
You will not need much to enjoy the show, but you should bring a blanket to lay on, and always some bug spray. You can see them best with the naked eye. Try to notice the many different colors, and the smoke trails that are left behind too.
Below we've compiled a list of observatories around New Jersey. We will update this list as we learn about more fun places for you to Get Outside! If you know of any to add, please let us know!
Address: 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst, NJ
Address: Voorhees State Park, Lebanon Township, NJ
Address: 355 Washington Crossing, Titusville, NJ
Address: 136 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ
Address: Ross Drive, Boonton, New Jersey
Phone: (973) 335-5990
Address: Rifle Camp Park, Woodland Park, NJ
Address: 1033 Springfield Ave., Cranford, NJ
Address: 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ 07439
We will update this list as we learn about more fun places for you to Get Outside! If you know of any to add, please let us know!